Manchester United thrashed Premier League champions Leicester City as boss Jose Mourinho dropped captain Wayne Rooney from his starting line-up.
Chris Smalling’s header put United ahead before Juan Mata finished off a slick move with a crisp strike.
Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba – with his first goal for the club – both scored from corners, with Demarai Gray’s spectacular long-range strike the only consolation for Leicester.
Rooney came on in the 83rd minute.
United’s first Premier League win in a month was sealed by half-time, but a third defeat for Leicester already matches their total for the whole of last season.
No Rooney, no problem
“If he has to go on the bench, he goes on the bench. If he has to stay at home, he stays at home.”
Mourinho was true to his pre-match words as Rooney was dropped for a Premier League game for the first time since Boxing Day 2015 – and ended up a spectator for what was eventually a transformed first-half performance.
For the first 20 minutes it may have been more of the same from United, ponderous and slow in their approach, but once Smalling had headed in the opener the shackles were released.
How much of a difference Rooney’s absence made to their play is hard to quantify, but a 4-0 scoreline at the break was proof enough that the change was justified.
Mata, nominally playing in Rooney’s place behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was bright and lively and took his goal superbly before teeing up Rashford for a tap-in, but it was in midfield that the hosts were able to really take a grip of the game as Leicester froze in the headlights.
Rooney eventually came on with seven minutes left, replacing Rashford on the left wing. Where his future role now lies remains a mystery but Mourinho’s decision to leave out his captain could hardly have worked out better.